BUS RIDE IMPRESSION: Pai Audio DM1

Hello, hello again! Threading through the Pai Audio review series, I am quite excited to review this particular model. The DM1 seems to carry a different design albeit same over the ear form factor similar to a lot of IEMs in the market today, however, I already am pleased to try this one out given its build which I think is its primary plus. While there are other similar (or maybe even better) materials used in other IEMs, you will be hard pressed to find one with similar material with such price (US$69). That alone already tells how well thought of the design is for the DM1.

However, given the excellent build, was Pai Audio able to work on such a low price without compromising the sound? Mind, there are other IEMs of the same price (or maybe less) and while DM1 can compete when it comes to build, ultimately we will be faced with the perennial question: does it sound well?

Let’s see now how the DM1 fares.

Build

As mentioned earlier, I have been fascinated by how well built the DM1 is. It looks like something that you won’t ever have to worry about durability, as it is presented in such a tough manner without losing the class, what with its shell made of aluminum with a glossy black finish.

For the price, it is good to note that DM1 allows detachable cable which seems to be quite receptive to sound changes depending on the cable used (will talk about it more in a bit). The design allows for a comfortable fit, hooking the cable on your ears which doesn’t feel like it strains my ears while using it, unlike several other IEMs I tried that can be a bit uncomfortable after an hour or 2.

One thing I noticed though is that the glossed part seems to attract a bit of scratches. I kind of neglected stowing the DM1 in a case for a day and it did show a bit of scratches, probably more on my fault (I stashed it in a pocket of my office bag) so I think extra care in handling should be in order.

Packaging seems to be similar to the PR1, this time using a square acrylic box to let consumers see what is inside the box. Should be pretty nifty, as it allows one to easily identify what is the content of the box without really looking at the label.

Also included are several pairs of ear tips of varying sizes and a shirt clip, so it pretty much is a standard packaging. Nothing spectacular, but then again, getting such pristine looking IEM for less than 70 US dollars is already a bargain.

The included cable is made of copper, terminated with a standard MMCX plug with a memory wire built right before the MMCX plug. On the other end lies a 3.5mm L-type plug which seems pretty convenient when being used with your phone. One thing that I dislike about the cable is that it can be a bit suppler. I also figured that the cable kind of causes a bit of strain on the upper mids, hearing a bit of sibilance especially when you crank the volume up. I tried swapping the cable with an SPC one and it did seem to do the trick, hence, if you are getting the DM1, best that you invest on a better cable. You will thank me for that.

Overall, I think the build and the packaging is quite good. You just have to really be extra careful when keeping the DM1, other than that, everything is swell.

Sound

I am pretty excited to talk about the sound more than I was thrilled by how the DM1 looks. Yes, I have pointed out how sleek the earpieces look, apart from it being pretty comfortable to my ears. However, what really is more interesting is how it sounded.

When I tried it on for the first time as I burn it in, I kinda felt the upper mids to lower trebles are a little hot; I already assumed that it may be something that not everyone will like. However, after letting it play for about 20 hours, I already felt the peaks to be gone from the said frequencies, much to my enjoyment as I finally got to hear how the DM1 truly sounds, at least from how it is expected to be.

Basically, the DM1 sound a bit v-shaped, but not quite like the typical IEMS of the similar signature. True, the mids recess a tad bit, but not as much. I would even hazard to say it is near flat had it not been with the slightly recessed mid-range, but I would say Pai Audio did a fine job making such detail compliment how the low and high frequencies are tuned.

Bass should be sufficient, something that is not overwhelming but is pretty smooth and tight. I liked how well defined the mid bass is, even with the use of varying genres of tracks. Sub-bass rumbles quite well, perhaps not similar to a lot of more expensive IEMs with excellently tuned bass, but for the price range, I would say it has to be one of the best, if not the best.

Treble has to be the defining point for the DM1. As much as it kind of sounded a bit peaky before burn in, but having played the DM1 for over 50 hours did a lot of improvement to how it sounded. I won’t say the trebles are bright, but it rings quite cleanly, perhaps allowing such spring that is lively and detailed without a tinge of being too bright for anyone to handle.

Imaging is pretty decent, DM1 allows ample separation to present distinction between channels and frequencies. Soundstage is quite okay for an in-ear monitor.

I took the DM1 to a spin and here’s what I observed:

WhyAnnie Lennox (Diva)

Being a person with affinity to excellently executed trebles, I find the track to be an excellent benchmark to check whether a transducer can handle good treble. It offers a healthy amount of sparkle off the higher frequencies if the transducer can manage it, and the DM1 pretty much delivers. It handled around 2-4kHz range quite well, allowing the richness of the said frequency to be exhibited with good amount of details while being smooth. I liked how rumbly the sub-bass extended while keeping the mid-bass pretty tight and bay without overwhelming the lower mids. I have to say, I immensely enjoyed the track with the DM1.

True ColoursChlara (Evo Sessions)

While this track would usually exploit the vocal prowess of the artist, the DM1 still managed to present the track in all its glory; clean and immaculate vocals. Even more with the piano accompaniment, DM1 was able to keep me glued in by presenting the details of the track, with all its nuances and all. It was a quick listen-in for me, but at least I figured that whenever I want to listen to this track, the DM1 is a pretty good option.

BelkisModern Jazz Quartet (Lonely Woman)

This one was fun. Playing the track with the DM1 allowed the IEM to truly shine in terms of layering, with each instruments sounding absolutely distinct. Bass guitars harmonized well with the pianos while being accentuated by the subtle yet impactful drums. Snare hits are such a joy to listen to, with splashes emanating in a manner that is lush yet controlled. Layers are not overwhelmingly good, but is definitely fun to listen to.

Wrap-up

Considering the performance, the DM1 is dirt cheap. Yes, you will need to swap out the cables for a more comfortable jam time, but that is an investment I am willing to make. You don’t really have to throw in a lot of dough, a decent copper cable should be fine to enjoy the DM1. Apart from that gripe, I think DM1 is an excellent entry-level IEM that should be tried by a lot of folks as the tonality is quite versatile. For a starting enthusiasts, the price may not exactly be to their whim, but in exchange of that very small sacrifice, you will be in for a treat for what could be an IEM that should last you quite a decently longer time compared to other similarly priced IEMs in the market.

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